Picture a transport provider with compute resources in dozens of locations, from its offices and transport centres to its toll booths. It uses a combination of cloud and micro data centres located throughout its sites – self-contained enclosures that can be deployed in hours to run applications like ticketing systems and video analytics where and when they are needed. They require less space, cooling and power than traditional data centres, which aligns with the company’s commitment to operating more sustainably.
Demand for this distributed approach to computing is growing, says Glen Montgomery, director of critical infrastructure provider Intelli-Systems, which works with Schneider Electric to supply its Micro Data Center to Australian transport providers and customers in other sectors.
While larger data centres still play a role, the move to cloud and a growing need for edge computing have created a case for downsizing some on-premises data centres and deploying the infrastructure in more efficient and flexible ways.
“Infrastructure modernisation is no longer a like-for-like replacement,” Montgomery says. “What we're seeing is that a modular approach to data centres is quite often required, so that companies can scale up or scale down with ease.”
“Quite often the UPSs that were put in 5 to 10 years ago are oversized and become inefficient, and there’s a lot of space that can be recovered because companies have decided to go cloud and edge,” Montgomery says. That’s a trend he has seen in medium size businesses in the transport and utilities sectors, for example.
Sustainability concerns can also be a factor in the re-configuration of on-premise data centres, Montgomery says.
“A few years back, it was just energy savings that were factored into these decisions. But at the moment you see a lot more companies that are pledging to reduce their emissions…there’s quite a lot of interest in net zero,” he says.
Schneider Electric states that about three quarters of its product sales are of its Green Premium products, which address transparency and compliance when it comes to their environmental impact.
Rajesh Thangaraj, Edge Solutions Evangelist in Schneider Electric’s Secure Power Division, makes a case that distributing computing resources using the company’s Micro Data Center reduces the need for cooling and building materials. “You don't really need those dedicated rooms, you can host this edge equipment anywhere,” he comments.
There is a lot of underused distributed computing equipment already deployed by enterprises on site, Thangaraj points out. For example, he estimates that only a third of the computing resources in retail stores might be in use. He sees that as an opportunity to run IoT applications without adding significantly more computing resources on site.
“Much existing distributed computing equipment in enterprises is capable of data persistence, and some is even capable of executing complex computing. When these devices instead send all of their data to the cloud, an opportunity is lost,” Thangaraj says. “If these devices continue to be underused, we will need to build bigger central data centres, while burdening existing network infrastructure and reducing bandwidth.”
“You can really host more workloads in those environments, so you don't have to expand that hardware or the infrastructure.”
How the partner wins
The Schneider-Intelli-Systems partnership shows a way forward for on-premise infrastructure providers in a world of cloud computing.
Intelli-Systems benefits from access to pre-built, green certified Micro Data Centers designed for the conditions that might be encountered at the edge. That enables it to assists clients quickly without having to design and build on-premise environments first. “It's closed the gap on speed to deliver,” Montgomery says.
Montgomery expects to see more all-in-one edge solutions on the market in the future. “I believe that there'll be a lot more that will be quite small and easy to implement and roll out,” he predicts.
Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure Platform adds value by enabling Intelli-Systems to remotely monitor and manage edge equipment. That capability will be useful as the number of edge system grows.
Customers are also turning to Intelli-Systems to help them project manage infrastructure changes to prevent downtime. “Quite often a lot of these systems haven't been turned off for years,” Montgomery explains.
This is paying off for Intelli-Systems. It won the 2020 APC by Schneider Electric Channel Award for Service Partner of the Year, recognising “substantial growth in its brand value and its attraction of new customers”.
The company has a number of customers in the transport sector, including an airport. In some cases, these companies are relying on Intelli-Systems and Schneider Electric to deploy edge computing to speed up response times for customers checking availability of seats.
Some vendors are tipping huge growth in the volume of data at the edge. Opportunities to collect and analyse that data to benefit operations and customers will be opportunities for Schneider Electric partners. Hardware sales and implementations is only part of the picture: customers may need remote monitoring and management services, training and support.
Schneider Electric offers channel partners and IT solution providers a path to these new revenue opportunities, including via its APC edge program. Its software and services enable partners to manage edge infrastructure after it is implemented, when customers are likely to need assistance keeping systems running and managing power and cooling technology.
To learn more, visit Schneider Electric.